The Vintage Sports-car Club has announced that the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity will be the club’s nominated charity for the next three years. The charity has supported the club’s annual Prescott hillclimb since 2011 and has raised over £6000 in that time. The MAAC operates across six counties from Gloucestershire to Staffordshire.
Sebastien Ogier will this week chose between two options for him to contest next year’s World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman insists a decision is just days away and M-sport’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC is one of the two cars he could be driving in 2017. Ogier wouldn’t be drawn on the identity of the second option – most feel it’s Toyota, but there remains a possibility it could be Citroen or even a private Volkswagen Polo R WRC ( see story right).
Citroen’s team principal Yves Matton remains tight-lipped, offering only a no comment on the question of whether Ogier could return.
Asked if he had negotiated with Matton’s superiors, including PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares, Ogier said: “You know I can’t answer those kind of questions.”
Ogier did admit to MN that he’s already behind in his decisionmaking process.
“When I came back from Australia,” he said, “my plan was that I wanted to know at the end of last week. But now there is more to think about. My vision is becoming clearer now. My wish is to race a bit more, but I cannot guarantee that I will be at the start of Monte Carlo. How can I be 100 per cent sure when I do not have a contract in my hand?
“But for me, nothing has changed – I want the car with the best chance to win, I need this for my motivation and I would also want stability for the future. I have options with a one-year deal or two. It’s not about the money, it’s about the potential. There are two options for me now.”
Ogier was reluctant to go into detail about the Yaris and Fiestas he tested – admitting only that the damp conditions during his one day running in the car made the Toyota test look worse than it was.
“It was not so good on the Tarmac, I agree, but it was much better on gravel,” he said. “It was very slippery, so it doesn’t help to show the potential, but also in these conditions you can quickly tell what’s wrong with the car.”
The four-time champion said the enthusiasm he experienced at M-sport – not least from team principal Malcolm Wilson – was steering him towards the Fiesta.
Ogier added: “Before I knew any of this was going to happen, I said it would be good to work with Malcolm – this doesn’t change. Malcolm has made it clear it’s his priority to work with us and this is something playing in his favour: you like to have people who are very clear and very motivated to work with us. Malcolm clearly has the passion.”
Talking to MN just moments after standing in the press conference where Nico Rosberg announced his decision to quit Formula 1, Ogier admitted he could understand the thinking in the German’s familymotivated decision.
“Things do change when you become a father,” he said. “It changes your approach. You know you are in your career and you are compromising this [family life].”
Asked if he was still thinking about taking a year – or possibly even more away from the sport, he replied: “It would be OK. I have the four titles, so I feel less pressure – it’s not like I’m chasing the first title. If it would stop now, it would not be so much the end of the world as it might have been.”
Wilson’s commitment to an OgierM-sport deal remains as solid as it has been from the start of talks.
“Let’s wait and see what happens,” Wilson said. “We’re still in there and we’re still working on it. Sebastien wants to find himself a good deal and I can understand that. We’re still working on other areas of the discussions right now, but I think we’ll know pretty soon.”
Asked if he would take Ogier on a single-season contract, Wilson replied: “Yes, absolutely, that’s one of the options. To be honest, I take a lot of satisfaction – regardless of what happens from here – that we’re going to have a competitive car for next season. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t be around the table talking.”
You had to feel for Hyundai. The Korean manufacturer had brought journalists together from across the world to show them their stunning new i20 Coupe WRC, but the firm’s third World Rally Car in as many years remained second on the collected media agenda.
What had everybody heard? What about Citroen? Private Polo? Year at home? M-sport, surely…
Last week was all about Sebastien Ogier and the identity of his future employer.
The whole drama’s starting to go on a bit now and that’s certainly the feeling of the Frenchman himself. He admitted to setting himself the target of being back in full time employment by the end of last week. But still it goes on. And in addition to the now usual suspects of M-sport, Toyota and Citroen, Ogier threw a curved ball of his own in Vienna last week. Standing on the sidelines of the press conference where Nico Rosberg announced his decision to depart Formula 1, the reigning world champion listened intently and, when Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was asked who might replace the German, Ogier wasted no time.
“So, Sebastien Ogier has just put his hand in the air,” smiled Wolff, “now we have a completely new and very strong option!”
Through the reveal of one of the sport’s most eagerly anticipated new cars, there were briefings, discussions and opinion sought from across the board about where he should go and where he will go.
Citroen was the logical choice of Ogier’s fellow drivers and posed the big question among the hacks.
Were we missing something? After admitting he would answer Ogier’s telephone call when the news broke, Citroen’s team principal Yves Matton has remained tight-lipped on what he would say when he picked up the phone. Beyond accepting it would be complicated to run a fourth car (he already had Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre under contract), he’s said no more.
There’s strong speculation that PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares – the biggest cheese around in the world of Citroen and Peugeot – has become involved in negotiations. Tavares dismissed the millions required immediately. Some say.
Others? He’s thinking about it and this is what is delaying an Ogier decision.
Through all of this, M-sport’s Malcolm Wilson sits and waits. By the time Hyundai was done and dusted, it was Cumbria that remained the most likely choice.
Ogier talked about, Dani Sordo widened the debate to include the other two Volkswagen drivers: Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-matti Latvala. The Spaniard admitted he was baffled by the continued linking of Latvala and Toyota.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Mikkelsen wins in Australia and then nobody talks about him, it’s incredible. It was Latvala-ogier, Ogier-latvala, but what about Mikkelsen?”
Well, MN can exclusively reveal that Mikkelsen will drive a Yaris WRC next season. Maybe. Don’t worry. This extended – not to mention unexpected – silly season will draw to a close this week... Promise.